Sara Rezk Power Of A Smile

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Sara Rezk, from Fairfax VA is a mother of two, and her youngest, Seleem, was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. Here’s what the Power Of A Smile means to her. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a child with cleft what would it be?

CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE! You are amazing children who will have to go through some additional hardships in life. The cleft you were born with does not define who you can or cannot be. Find your passion and run with it.

If you could give one piece of advice to another parent whose child was born with cleft what would it be?

With all the madness and emotions that come with a cleft diagnosis, hang in there. One day you will look back and miss your little one’s wide smile so much! This whole journey will not only empower you as parents, it will have a lasting impact on the family as a whole.

What makes you smile?

Seeing my child being so brave. Nothing gets in his way! At just 2, he is already inspiring so many people around him.

What did your child being born with a cleft teach you about life?

That we really shouldn’t just see people at face value. This is a very diverse world and we need to embrace everyone around us, whether a different culture, appearance, life style, beliefs or religion.

What does the “Power of a Smile” mean to you/ why do you think it’s so important?

Power of a Smile means hope and connection!

What has the “Power of a Smile” done for you in your life?

It has broken barriers and given me the chance to get to know so many amazing people.

9th Annual Mini Marathon for Smile Train at Pleasant Hill Elementary

Celebration Post Race_PHE

On April 24, 2015 Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Columbia South Carolina held its 9th Mini-Marathon for Smile Train. Physical Education teacher and real-world Smile Train super hero Thomas Cronin, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, hosts the event every year. He says that he feels so fortunate that he was able to receive surgery when he was a child, and his hope is that every child born with a cleft is able to have the same opportunities for a healthy and productive life that he was given.

Cronin Father and  Sons_PHE

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On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. This year, the event raised a total of $13,090 for Smile Train. This is enough to provide surgery for 52 children with cleft lips and palates.

Smile Train’s Mini Marathon has become a tradition at Pleasant Hill Elementary School. This year, Smile Train’s own Director, Program Development, Shannon Lambert, got to attend the event, walk around the track with some students, and answer student questions. She said some of the most common questions were “How many surgeries did Smile Train help provide last year?” and “How long does it take to complete a surgery?” One student, a young boy, shared a story with Shannon about his cousin that lives in Guadalajara, Mexico who was born with a cleft. His cousin didn’t have transportation to get to a treatment facility, so the little boy’s family in South Carolina drove to Mexico to bring the boy to the hospital for surgery.

Overall, Pleasant Hill Elementary School’s Smile Train Mini Marathon gives the students a chance to learn more about a meaningful cause, and how something as simple as a smile can change a life, all while getting fit at the same time.

Peggy Kamphausen: “I Uphold My Parents’ Legacy by Donating To Smile Train”

Smile Train supporter Peggy Kamphausen recently shared a heartwarming story of how her now late mother, at 94 years old, wanted to get a job to help a special Smile Train patient. Below is the story in Peggy’s own words.

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I took care of my parents when they were 94 years old. While my mother’s mind wasn’t always clear, her beautiful heart continued to feel. She saw a magazine ad for Smile Train with pictures of children before their clefts were repaired. She managed to tell me she wanted to get a job so she could afford to help the cleft children. With tears in her eyes, she pointed to the picture of the most severely affected little boy, “Him…I have to help him!” she said.

My beautiful mom and dad have passed away now, but every Christmas I honor her request. In my adult children’s Christmas stockings, I place a note that $250 has been donated in their Grandma and Grandpa’s memory to help a child. It is our special Christmas tradition.

There is peace and warmth in a smile. To me the Power Of A Smile is a universal language that instantly connects one heart to another. God bless everyone at Smile Train for the amazing work that they do.  And for helping me to fulfill my mother’s longing to help.

Smile Train Participates in the First Ever Global Surgery Congressional Briefing

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In her own words Erin Stieber, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Smile Train, details her experience participating in a recent Congressional Briefing.

On Wednesday, February 4, I was honored to represent Smile Train on Capitol Hill for the first ever Congressional Briefing on Global Surgery. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Global Health Caucus, US Represenattives Dave Reichert and Betty McCollum, ReSurge International and the G4 Alliance.

An estimated 170,000 babies are born each year in the developing world with cleft lip and palate, a surgically repairable facial deformity. Without surgery, these children will often be denied the chance to go to school, get married or contribute to their communities, and may even be abandoned or die. An estimated 2 billion people lack access to basic surgical care, and many children with clefts are among them. The briefing gave Smile Train the opportunity to speak about this important issue alongside other speakers from ReSurge International, Stanford University, JHPIEGO, and the American College of Surgeons, among others.

I presented on Smile Train’s sustainable model as one example of a successful “solution” to the challenge of reaching neglected surgical patients around the world. Through our partnership with local medical professionals in their own communities and investment in empowerment, technology, and training initatives, Smile Train has reached more than one million patients with life changing surgery in just 15 years, and has made great strides in addressing the lack of access to essential surgical care for cleft lip and palate.

New Smile, New Life in America: Poppy’s Story

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Poppy and her father and siblings.

Several months ago Smile Train supporter, Kristina Lu, adopted her daughter, Poppy, from China. Poppy was born with a cleft palate, but thanks to Smile Train was able to receive free surgery. In her own words Kristina shares her story.

My husband read about Smile Train from the chapter in FreakonomicsTM soon after the book came out.  We liked the way they ran their charity and we became donors for several years. We liked how Smile Train helps teach local doctors how to repair clefts instead of just flying in, doing some surgeries, and then heading home.  It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” philosophy.

In 2013, we decided to add a third child to our family via adoption from China. We decided to adopt from China because my husband is an American of Chinese ethnicity.  We thought that a child adopted from China would blend in well with our biracial family. We also knew we wanted to adopt a special needs child.  Although we were open to different types of special needs, we were most comfortable with adopting a child with cleft lip/palate – some of our comfort coming from knowing about Smile Train and your mission.

We were matched by our adoption agency with our daughter Poppy, who lived in Pingliang, Gansu, China.  After we came home with Poppy in June 2014, Smile Train was extremely helpful in providing us with the medical records that they had on her.

Poppy is doing really well now!  She’s been home 6 months and it’s as if she’s always been a part of our family.  She is best friends with her older sister and she adores her older brother.  She’s loving gymnastics class and she enjoys singing and dancing at home.  She loves playing with her (and her siblings’) Legos. She was very excited to dress up as Princess Anna from Frozen for Halloween this year.  She tells everyone that will listen that she was Anna.

In the age of Facebook and social media, we were able to find Poppy’s connection with Smile Train and Love Without Boundaries.  We were also able to connect with the parents of one of Poppy’s best friends in the orphanage (who also had her cleft surgery through Smile Train in Kunming at the same time) through Facebook.  Her friend was adopted by a family in St. Louis.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited my family in Illinois and we were able to make a side-trip to St. Louis to have dinner with her friend and her family.  At first, they were a little unsure of each other, then they took off like no time had passed since they had been together in Pingliang 6 months earlier.

We found it very touching to see that an organization that we learned about more than a decade ago has directly benefitted our daughter.  Thank you Smile Train for helping Poppy and all the children that you affect.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie at the orphanage in China.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

Poppy and Leslie in St. Louis.

10th Annual Hot Lips Hustle 5K

First runner to finish hot lips hustle 5K.

Marietta, GA—Hundreds of runners and walkers raised over $6,000 for Smile Train at the 10th Annual Hot Lips Hustle 5K on Saturday, September 20. The Hustle was founded in 2004 by Ryan Ernstes, a 12-year-old girl who was born with a cleft. Now 22, Ryan is still committed to helping other children who were born with the same birth defect.

Besides raising enough money to fund 24 new smiles, the event was a fun family affair, with even dogs participating. Many people came dressed in silly costumes and wigs and there was a live DJ, lip tattoos, an ice cream bar, and great food. There were trophies for the top finishers (even for the top dog racers), and all entrants were entered into free prize drawings, but Ryan believes that the greatest prize of all was being able to give a child a new smile and a new start at life. Over the past 10 years the Hot Lips Hustle 5K has contributed to 366 surgeries for children all over the world, changing their lives forever.

Runners during the race.

Runners during the race.

Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon for Smile Train

Smile Train supporter Tom Cronin was born with a cleft now, together with his students he raises money for children to receive free cleft lip and palate surgery

Columbia, SCThomas Cronin, Physical Education Teacher, Pleasant Hill Elementary and Mini Marathon Event Director shares how his students are creating smiles around the world. Our deepest thanks to Tom and all of the students, staff, and faculty of Pleasant Hill Elementary and everyone involved!

I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Fortunately, I was born in the United States and had surgeries to repair my cleft. There are more than one million children in developing countries who do not have this opportunity. They grow up with an unrepaired cleft and live a life of shame. They are abandoned, do not go to school or get married. Smile Train is a charity that provides free cleft surgery for these children.

Over the last 9 years, my wife and I have made personal donations to Smile Train, but I wanted to do more. I immediately thought of my role as a physical education teacher. In 2007, The Pleasant Hill Elementary School Mini Marathon was created to help Smile Train and increase the physical fitness level of my students.

Pleasant Hill Elementary raises funds to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery

The mini marathon starts several weeks before the actual run and walk. The students view videos and pictures about Smile Train during physical education class prior to the run/walk. The knowledge about Smile Train and clefts helps the students understand why they are running and walking and who they are raising money to help. All students receive a Smile Train bracelet, and many students earn a Pleasant Hill Elementary mini marathon t-shirt. Our 5th grade art students contribute by making event posters.

On the day of the event each grade level (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) runs and walks for 30 minutes on the school’s outdoor track. By the end of the day over 900 students run and walk in support of Smile Train. The students are able to complete the mini marathon by using the lessons of running pace, running stride and proper breathing technique taught during physical education class. Some older and advanced students run the whole 30 minutes and complete almost 3 miles, while some of the younger students alternate between running and walking. This pattern enables them to complete 1.5 miles.

Students of Pleasant Hill Elementary School ran to provide free cleft surgery

The Mini Marathon is directly related to Lexington School District One’s LexLives strategic goal. This is related to improving the health and wellness of its students by increasing fitness and decreasing obesity. Families and the community are also involved.Families walk and run with their children. Local business partners sponsor the event and also participate in the run and walk.

In the 7 years this event has been held, the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary have been able to fund 376 cleft lip and palate operations for Smile Train.

The Mini Marathon does several things. It gets kids more physically fit through the running and walking and teaches students about helping others and community service. It gives kids the opportunity that I had 41 years ago — to have their cleft lip and palate repaired and live a productive life.

If you would like to get your school involved with Smile Train, please contact us at students@smiletrain.org .